Friday, January 15, 2010

Carnal Knowledge: A Review

There is something really great yet something really really repulsive happening in this 1971-movie staring Jack Nicholson, Candice Bergen (Murphy Brown) and Art Garfunkel.

What I found compelling in this film was the relationship between Jonathan (Nicholson) and Sandy (Garfunkel); they had, what you would call today, a bromance that lasted decades; or what 13-year old girls would say, they were BFFs…best friends forever. They truly went through their entire adult lives together.

Jonathan and Sandy’s conversations felt so realistic and raw to me that even though they were laced with sexism what they were saying seemed too true to their characters to get overly offended. But then of course, I got offended.

True, the relationship between John and Sandy was compelling, and true, it had elements of intensity and passion that moved the story line forward especially in regards to John backing down on his love for Susan (Bergen) to keep his friendship and love of his friend.

But, I could not get over the invisibility that existed when Sandy married Susan and Susan completely left the frame of the movie. I know, this was the director’s choice, but it completely pissed me off. Susan was going to become a lawyer; Susan was a bold, independent, and intelligent woman who chooses to marry Sandy and who then chooses to become a homemaker instead? Ah, hell no. And Susan did not just become a homemaker, but a completely invisible character from that point on, as if she was only property, as if she no longer could speak for herself. And I guess, she obviously couldn’t since we never heard her again. Susan also became a metaphor, a symbol of the “cage” in which Sandy was trapped. Her absentness creates an invisible prison of Sandy’s mind and body, as if their marriage is a completely destructive force.

It was disgusting. Her lack of voice upon marriage is what made the movie unbelievable and undeserving of continuing forward. I really wish it would have ended right when John and Susan break it off, because at least then I could have imagined all the different possibilities, but instead I was brutally forced to witness the complete womanizing of these two bromancers from that point forward.

The film did an amazing job of showing the complexity of these two men, as bffs; making me hate one of them one minute, then hate the other one instead the next. But it truly missed the mark by shutting Susan up—how can someone who was such a main character at the beginning of the film basically be killed off by a wedding ring—she was someone I really wanted to see, I wanted to hear, I wanted to know what happened to her. Because to say she wasn’t vital to the story-line is completely incorrect. Would she have been better off with John, would it have saved everyone’s future if they would have just come out with their secret affair when it was happening—I believe that was the point to be shown, no matter what path, it’s always going to be rocky and it’s never going to be what you want.

The concept was great; the execution of the concept was what was repulsive. So, perhaps the next one can make a similar point without objectifying women. Because in truth, women have just as much knowledge of the carnal, even married women and we, as viewers, should get just as much of their perspectives and voices exposed to us as we get of their bare breasts.

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